Tales of the Sunset

Tales of the Sunset: Back to School

By Suzy Loftus

That was a long summer. And not in the easy, breezy, long summer sort of way. No, we didn’t get our break, our respite, our moment between the end of the school year and the start of a new one.

In our house, we go hard from August to May. Then we summer. And, let’s be clear, “summering” sometimes just means choosing a summer camp where they provide a lunch that I don’t have to pack. Joy! Or choosing a camp with a start time of 9 a.m. instead of our usual 7:45 school start time. That is living!  But so much has changed in just a few months and this summer has put these changes into sharp focus.

One big change: our family didn’t do summer camps and we didn’t go back to school in the traditional sense. Like other parents, I spent most of the summer trying to read the tea leaves between public statements and public health directives to gauge what would happen for public school students in the Fall. And whether it was a hybrid model or remote learning, I just hoped that my 6th grader, 8th grader and 10th grader’s Fall semester would be more successful than the Spring.

I went through the predictable anger phase and frustration with the “will it/won’t it” school opening process. Then I realized that I had a choice to make: I could howl at the moon or I could figure out how to make remote learning work. I chose the latter. (I feel it’s important to note that around this time I realized remote school doesn’t start until 9 a.m. — hey, moms need their sleep, folks.) Here’s how our family is making it work:

First, I got to figuring out what my kids needed to be successful. First thing — they needed their own space, a dedicated area for them to organize their books, pencils, computer and papers.  No matter the size of your home, I recommend carving out one spot for your child where they “go to school in the morning” or at least can put their books and papers at the end of the day. It has helped create a separation between school and the rest of their day and created more space — literally and figuratively.

Next, we made sure we had enough Wifi for three girls and two parents to be online all day. This happened because one too many times we’d all be on a Zoom call and someone would use the microwave and one of us would get kicked off our Zoom. Imagine me jumping back on my work call, “Apologies, my 11 year old had a mid-day hankering for microwave popcorn. But now that the popcorn is popped, I’m back!”

We were able to sort out our microwave/WiFi battle, but I must note that many families across the San Francisco Unified School District still struggle with having sufficient internet access to allow for robust remote learning. While I applaud the District for working earnestly to help all of our families create enough wifi for their school-age children – there is more to do here. If your child is having any difficulty getting or staying online, make sure to connect directly with their teachers and get access to support from the District.

Finally, we got a dog. Yes, It’s true. We adopted an amazing dog, Finnick, from the SPCA.  While he is undoubtedly the greatest thing that has happened to us this year, he’s not actually any kind of actual remote learning strategy – he just brings his loving and kind self to us every day and makes things better. He also gets us out of the house more and walking around the neighborhood. Say hi next time you see us! We’ve become really grateful for the time we have at home to train him and get him fully accustomed to life as a Loftus.

As much as our family has made strides adjusting to this new normal, I know that you all have some tips and tricks that have helped you adjust. Share them!  Send them to me in the comments or at talesofthesunset@gmail.comand I’ll include the best ones next month.

Suzy Loftus is a native San Franciscan and resident of the Outer Sunset, mother of three, former district attorney of San Francisco and elected member of the San Francisco Democratic Central Committee.

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